When I was a kid, between the ages of four and 12 years old, Christmas was my favorite time of year because it was the closest thing to magic for me. A mysterious man named Santa Claus climbed down my living room chimney every year to leave presents for my brother and me under the Christmas tree then would hop on his sleigh to give presents to every other kid in the country — all within a matter of minutes. I would “know,” because I tracked Santa down every step of the way the night before and early morning hours of December 25 through the NORAD Santa Tracker online.

Except, of course, I never got to see him for myself because my dad always told me I had to go to bed in order for Santa to stop by.

I carried my passion for Christmas all throughout the year, as the mere thought of ripping open cutely wrapped presents and being visited once a year by the enchanting, perplexing Kris Kringle thrilled me. I wanted to feel that enchantment all year-round, not just on Christmas, and even wrote a few letters to Santa throughout the year using addresses I found on the internet that claimed to be for his village in the North Pole.

One day, however, my mom accidentally told me that Santa was not real. I felt as though all the magic in the world was gone and that Christmas would never be special again. What was the charm in the holiday, after all, if it was just my parents giving me presents the whole time?

As the years passed and my mind began to roam further and further away from the childlike wonder and innocence embedded within Christmas, my Christmas wish list got shorter and shorter every year. I became more invested in activities beyond the family, such as writing clubs, guitar lessons and academics, and didn’t get to have fun with my parents — which I had unlimited time for as a kid. There weren’t many opportunities where I could reciprocate the support and confidence that my parents provided me with all year-round, so Christmas turned into an exciting time to finally give back to them. Now under the Christmas tree, there weren’t just presents addressed to “Randy” and “Jasmine” but those to “Mommy” and “Daddy” as well.

Last Christmas, my parents told me a few weeks ahead that they would not be buying my brother and I presents that year: They thought that we were old enough to not mind not receiving presents anymore and wanted to have as minimal of a holiday as possible. My brother and I assured them that this was fine with us but continued to secretly visit the mall and slyly volunteer to get the mail to hide the online gifts we bought for them.

On Christmas morning of 2015, my brother and I ran into my parents’ bedroom early in the morning and begged them to come downstairs, just like what we did as kids when the presents were for us.

My parents woke up quickly from their groggy morning faces when they saw eight presents glistening under the ornaments, waiting there just for them. Even though I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness about not being able open presents that Christmas like I always had, I also experienced a feeling of uncontainable joy from seeing my parents smile as they excitedly unwrapped the paper then slowly look up at us with moist eyes upon recognizing that we had gone out of our ways to make Christmas alive for them.

In that moment, I realized how my parents must have felt all those years watching my brother and I unwrap our presents, never asking for anything in return and giving all of the credit to “Santa” just to make us happy. It was the simple joy in seeing their little, adored ones laugh and cherish what they were given to make their entire holiday season bright, and to me last year, that sight, with not a single present in my own hands, was the greatest Christmas present I have ever been given.